By Jake Donovan
It wasn't a spectacular ending to a main event, and certainly not the ending that Aron Martinez desired. But a flurry of punches capped by a flush left hook from Josesito Lopez was enough to force his opponent to turn his back on the action, prompting a stoppage in the 5th round of their headliner Thursday evening at Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage, California.
The bout headlined a special Thursday evening edition of ESPN2's Friday Night Fights series.
Action was relatively competitive through the first four rounds of the welterweight contest. Lopez was more than a 3-1 favorite heading, but was met with a stiff challenge from Martinez, who has played the role of spoiler before. The East Los Angeles-based welterweight has scored upset wins over Joseph Elegele and Prenice Brewer, and was competitive in spots in his Sept. '12 bout with Jessie Vargas, who is now a 140 lb. titlist.
The threat of an upset in this fight wasn't really in the air, even with Lopez having suffered knockout losses in two of his last three contests. The Riverside (CA) product looked shaky in his last outing, climbing off the canvas to score a disputed technical decision win over Mike Arnaoutis last December.
Martinez enjoyed pockets of his success in rounds two and four, with a case to be made that he deserved to win at least one of them. It was a moot point, however, as Lopez discovered his offense in time to take the fight out of the judges' hands.
A series of right hands laned on Martinez along the ropes, but it was a clean left hook from Lopez that ultimately caused the night to end. Martinez was caught flush on the chin, at which point he turned his back and covered up in the corner. Lopez managed to land two more shots - one perhaps behind Martinez' head as his back was to the action - before referee Jack Reiss stopped the fight.
"Aron got hit with a thunderous left hook, turned his back and covered up," Reiss accurately explained as to why a stoppage was warranted. "He abandoned the fight, under the rules of the California State Athletic Commission. I had no choice but to stop the fight at that point."
The official time was 1:19 of round five, though the outcome was met with immediate resistance by the losing fighter.
"I'm just disappointed because I came to fight and I don't think it should have been stopped," Martinez (19-3-1, 4KO) pleaded after the loss, his second in the span of three fights. "A fight like this, you have to let it go. I would understand if I was hurt and getting beat up."
Given his body language, it's tough to interpret his actions any other way than he was in fact hurt.
"He didn't understand that he abandoned the fight," Reiss stated, upon recapping the conversation he had with the fighter in the seconds immediately following the stoppage. "A few seconds went by before the thought process clicked in and he wanted to continue. But to avoid that situation, you have to do something - run, clinch, take a knee. He did none of those things, and instead abandoned the fight. I had no choice."
The sequence gives Lopez his second straight win - both occurring in somewhat anti-climactic fashion.
"I was coming on to him a little bit... I just wish the fight went a little longer," Lopez stated after the win, which advances his record to 32-6 (19KO). "I wanted to show what I have."
Perhaps it was the opponent he had in front of him, but Lopez had more to offer than has been the case in each of his last three fights. The veteran boxer became a cult hero when rallying to break Victor Ortiz' jaw and force the former welterweight titlist to quit on his stool due to injury following nine rounds of action in their June '12 war.
The moment was his last hurrah for a while. The win put Lopez in position to score a career-high payday versus Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez, though also resulted in a career-worst beatdown. An attempt to bounce back proved equally disastrous, remaining competitive with resurgent Marcos Maidana for as long as he could before eventually wilting in six rounds last June.
Now with two straight wins under his belt, Lopez feels like he's ready to make another run towards the contender and championship level.
"That's my goal, to prove I belong on that stage," Lopez stated afterward. "I'm on my way there."
With plenty of time to spare before the main event, Immanuwel Aleem managed to secure TV time. The Virginia-based middleweight made the most of the opportunity, scoring a 2nd round knockout of Mike Noriega.
A left hook was enough to put Noriega, already cut and bloodied over his left eye, down on the canvas. Referee Raul Caiz Jr. didn't bother to count, immediately bringing a halt to the contest.
The official time was 2:04 of round two.
Aleeem moves to 8-0 (4KO) with the win, shining in his televised debut. Noriega has now dropped three straight as he falls to 4-3 (4KO).
Thomas Williams Jr. enjoyed his second consecutive strong showing on ESPN2, scoring a 3rd round stoppage of veteran Enrique Ornelas in their televised co-feature.
Fresh on the heels of a 1st round knockout of Cornelius White - three months to the day, on ESPN2 - the unbeaten light heavyweight was intent on making a statement. Ornelas has historically fallen short at the top level, but almost always goes rounds.
Williams had other ideas in mind. The Maryland-based prospect boxed early on, measuring up Ornelas while plotting out the best course of action. The moment he saw an opening, Williams went on the attack and Ornelas was unable to keep up - or stay up.
The lone knockdown of the bout came in round two, when Williams had Ornelas pinned on the ropes and managed to chop him down. Youth was served in round three, as Williams simply outworked and overwhelmed the veteran, dropping him for a second time before forcing the stoppage.
The official time was 2:48 of round three.
Williams advances to 17-0 (12KO), having now scored impressive back-to-back stoppage wins. Ornelas falls to 34-9 (22KO), suffering just his second stoppage of his career, the only other occasion coming nearly 10 years ago.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox